'It’s disappointing, sad': McCutchen's season ends with partial Achilles tear

September 6th, 2023

PITTSBURGH -- ’s season is over.

The Pirates placed McCutchen on the 10-day injured list Wednesday due to a partial tear of his left Achilles tendon. McCutchen will spend the next six weeks in a walking boot; with roughly four weeks remaining in the regular season, the 36-year-old will not play again this year.

“It’s pretty disappointing, especially when it wasn’t necessarily something that I expected before I got the news,” McCutchen said before the Pirates' 5-4 win over the Brewers. “It’s disappointing, sad. You don’t ever want to feel like something is stopping you from going out there and playing. I guess sometimes it happens. Things like that happen.”

McCutchen didn’t think he’d played his final game of the season after sustaining the injury in the fifth inning of Monday’s game against the Brewers.

After legging out an RBI double, McCutchen walked off the field following Connor Joe’s inning-ending flyout, stopping to check on his left Achilles. Manager Derek Shelton subsequently removed McCutchen, the designated hitter, from the game prior to his next plate appearance. Following the game, McCutchen expressed that he felt fine.

“I could’ve stayed in the game,” McCutchen said on Monday. “They just wanted me to be safe, to make sure that everything was fine, that everything checked out -- which I did, too. Everything was fine. It was just tight.”

McCutchen briefly entertained the idea of playing through the left Achilles injury, but he and the Pirates assessed that continuing to play would not be worth the risk of a full tear.

“More than likely I ain’t coming back from [a full tear],” McCutchen said. “I had to ask myself those questions of, ‘What’s important? What do I want to do?’ For me, I’m not going to go out like this. I want to continue to keep playing and push through this, let this heal and be ready to go for 2024.”

Going forward, McCutchen, currently sitting on 299 career home runs, plans to remain with the Pirates for the rest of the season and support their litany of young players. As far as next season, McCutchen said that he wants to remain a Pirate and, ultimately, hit his 300th career home run with the black and gold.

“I’ve vocalized that plenty of times about wanting to be here,” McCutchen said. “[Hitting 300] isn’t going to feel right anywhere else. At the end of the day, I have to make the right decisions for myself, for my family. Whatever happens here, in the future, it’s indicative of that. I’m gonna rehab this, let this heal. Then when it’s time to get moving again, I get moving again. We’ll see where we go from there.”

In addition to recovering from the partial tear of his left Achilles, McCutchen will also have the opportunity to recover from a nagging right elbow injury that has pestered him since Spring Training. McCutchen grinded through the right elbow pain all season, briefly going on the injured list in early July after landing on his right elbow after a high-and-inside fastball sent him to the dirt. McCutchen said that he will not require surgery to recover, only rest.

While McCutchen was almost exclusively a designated hitter for this season due to his right elbow ailment, he bounced back from the worst offensive season of his career.

Across 473 plate appearances, McCutchen had a .256 batting average, .378 on-base percentage, .397 slugging percentage and 112 OPS+. In 2022, by contrast, McCutchen had a .237 batting average, the second-lowest mark of his career, as well as a .316 on-base percentage and .384 slugging percentage, the lowest marks of his career. McCutchen enjoyed several milestones over the course of this summer, most notably his 2,000th career hit.

With McCutchen out for the season, the Pirates plan to cycle through different players at designated hitter, a list that should include Bryan Reynolds, Jack Suwinski and Ke’Bryan Hayes. 

“He's still going to be around us, which is very important for our young group, especially as we go through September, but yeah, it's obviously frustrating for him and disheartening for us,” said Shelton.

The Pirates’ roster will transform in the coming months, but next year’s team stands to feature All-Stars such as Mitch Keller, Reynolds and David Bednar; foundational pieces in Hayes and Oneil Cruz; and rookies-turned-sophomores such as Endy Rodríguez, Henry Davis and Liover Peguero. Right-hander Paul Skenes, the first overall pick in the 2023 MLB Draft, stands to join the fray as well.

“For this team to be where we are, it says a lot about the future of the team,” McCutchen said. “It’s been good. It’s exciting. I try not to get too far ahead of myself, as far as next season and all that, but it’s been a good group thus far. We’ve played some good baseball.”